Joe Nocera, writing in the New York Times about how Amazon sent him out a free, no quibbles replacement Playstation when the one he had ordered was stolen on route to his house, says that Amazon’s success is not down to discounting or functionality or ubiquity (although of course all these things help) – it’s down to absolute, unwavering focus on the customer.

“I believe that the success we have had over the past 12 years has been driven exclusively by that customer experience. We are not great advertisers. So we start with customers, figure out what they want, and figure out how to get it to them.”

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder, on the Charlie Rose show

Until I saw it written down like that I hadn’t really ever stood back and understood just how much this novel attitude is threaded throughout the Amazon experience. So much so that I don’t even notice it anymore, I just take it for granted. If I want to buy ANYTHING these days I always go to Amazon first (and usually last too).

But what really floored me was this:

“According to Forrester Research, 52 percent of people who shop online say they do their product research on Amazon.”

When I read that I thought that’s completely astonishing. Half of all internet shoppers check with Amazon before buying, as if Amazon is a trusted and wise friend. And I realised, like a splash of water to the face, that I do too. And I do it instinctively. I tend to do it in this order, mentally creating a set of benchmarks against which all other retailers must meet:

  1. Price
  2. Stock availability
  3. Customer reviews
  4. Preview and/or photo

And before I know it I usually then meander down to see what categories it sits in, have a little go on the sort/filter, check out what other people have bought and perhaps other items by the seller or band or author etc.

Basically I go in there to do a little research and before I know it I am deep into their site adding things to my basket, which means Amazon wins.

Even the basket is focused on my needs as I can leave things in there indefinitely until I’m ready to buy. I’ve never abandoned a basket on Amazon (and this is in an industry where there is typically a 50% abandonment rate of shopping baskets!).

They’ve made the online ecommerce experience so trustworthy that they get probably 9/10ths of all my online purchases.

We can all learn a lot from this approach. I can strongly recommend reading “The Institutional Yes” from the Harvard review for more insight into the Amazon experience.